When you awoke this morning, did you find yourself craving the adrenaline rush of first person combat, the thrill of planning and executing a masterpiece heist, or the morally questionable satisfaction of gunning down wave after wave of law enforcement? No? Well most people don’t. However, if the answer was yes to any of the aforementioned questions, chances are you may well want to stay inside today and play some Payday 2: Crimewave Edition. Just don’t go outside.
Having never played any previous Payday instalments, Crimewave Edition piqued my interest with its mature subject matter and brutally realistic take on bank robbery and thievery in the modern world. Touchy subjects abroad, Payday features plenty of immorally satisfying activities such as subduing civilians, shooting cops, and vandalizing other people’s property. Payday 2: CE features a rewarding loot system, intense co-op action, and tons of criminal activities for players to bloody their hands with.
“Payday does enough for itself that a complete lack of story is actually almost excusable, but a shallow narrative is a shallow narrative all the same, and a lack of explanation for most of the games more complex mechanics really hurts its first impressions.”
At first glance Payday 2 appears to be a poorly textured battlefield game with a theme similar to hardline but a little more… extreme. Your first steps as a criminal take place in your crew’s local safe house. You’ve got fully automatic rifles, industrial grade drills, video surveillance, and everything else someone might need to be an aspiring criminal. You’ve even got a large cardboard box labelled “Baldwin”; Uh What? The safe house introduction is an immersive experience that really leaves the game feeling wide open, and you wonder what crazy heists you’ll be pulling off once you gain infamy. The possibilities seem endless as you approach the Crime.net application from the main menu, and with widespread arms you jump right into the shoes of a hardened criminal.
Here’s where the boar roars its ugly head: Payday 2: CE ends the introductory safe house segment and immediately ceases all story development and entirely all tutorial assistance. With no narrative cues to follow, and no way to make sense of all the overwhelming information it’s easy to get lost and become discouraged. Payday does enough for itself that a complete lack of story is actually almost excusable, but a shallow narrative is a shallow narrative all the same, and a lack of explanation for most of the games more complex mechanics really hurts its first impressions. Having not played the previous Payday instalments I cannot confirm for certain whether or not this entry makes sense in perspective of the story, however evidence supports that is does not. Some of the previous Payday members are returning in the current entry and yet your alleged informer/agent “Bain” comments about the crew starting from the bottom and makes no mention of previously acquired assets in the previous Payday.
Payday 2: CE’s connection issues are a major buzzkill, and more often than not it can take longer to connect to a game than you even spend in an average match. One can assume that Overkill intends to rectify this issue pre-launch, but only time will tell. The experience of sifting through page after page of game lobbies only to be given the same error message time and time again isn’t enjoyable for most people, and I imagine the game’s release will only multiply the issue tenfold.
Robbing banks and shooting cops can definitely be a solo activity but more often than not it’s a lot more fun to do with friends, or complete strangers; plus it’s a little easier when there’s more people for the cops to shoot at! There’s no official campaign as previously mentioned, so ultimately the game boils down to a co-op multiplayer experience. It can take five to ten, even 20 minutes, but once you hop into a match and start blasting through law enforcement you lose yourself in enjoyment. Bullets fly, grenades sound, and glass shattered; as time passes the action grows more and more intense.
For starters, it goes without saying that we’re shooting people in the first person point of view. We’re getting up and close and bringing out the equalizers, there’s money to made and the Payday crew isn’t fu***ng around. Payday 2: CE is quite obviously a game meant for mature audiences, and gameplay doesn’t slouch on the topic. Zip-tying civilians’ wrists and shoving them to the ground, and packing up dead cops in body bags to hide the evidence are just two of the extra-curricular interactions you’ll be performing. Standard mission activities range from picking locks, drilling safes, shooting cops, and other typical things expected from a bank robbery style game. Payday really plays out it’s mature subject matter by making you perform ludicrous tasks such as escorting a drunken pilot and having to wake him up with gunfire to keep the mission moving. Issuing commands to hostage civilians and AI companions is not uncommon, and neither is ducking for cover with bullets flying over your head while simultaneously attempting to inject adrenaline into a fading teammate.
“Enemy AI isn’t any better, with most of the cops running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and only the more elite enemies exhibiting any sign of depth in their tactics.”
It’s a shame issuing commands to your AI companions can be such a pain in the ass due to limited control options and again stiff controls. Enemy AI isn’t any better, with most of the cops running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and only the more elite enemies exhibiting any sign of depth in their tactics. Being roundhouse kicked by a Sam Fisher look alike doesn’t exactly add to the level of immersion. No other game to date has brought the same depth of interaction combined with the realistically brutal gameplay of robbing banks and performing heists, but some of Payday’s rough edges smear the larger picture.
Gunplay is certainly solid, but perhaps a little too solid. Controls feel stiff and manoeuvrability is limited even at high aim sensitivities leaving the game feeling stiff to control, like trying to steer your truck when the power steering goes. There may be a time when you find yourself backed up against a safe, ten minutes of drill time to go before sweet salvation and you’re about say goodbye to a couple pounds of ammunition; it would really help if it didn’t feel like your character is too physically weak to wield a weapon properly. Stiffies aside, the game’s gunplay is overall pretty decent and definitely not game-breaking, however you might not find yourself the marksman you may have thought you were. Say goodbye to aim assist sweetheart.
In many cases bullets don’t feel very weighty and weapons can tend to feel cheap, which isn’t complimented by the generally weak sound effects that accompany them.
With over fifty previous DLC releases content is sure to be satisfying, but over the long-haul repetitive mechanics are worn out and gameplay begins to feel shallow and sometimes actually frustrating. Thankfully, weapon customization, player classes, perk decks, and skillsets really help flesh out the experience and give the player a worthwhile wealth of content to sink his/her teeth into. Mask customization? Hell yeah!
Graphics in Payday 2: CE aren’t awful, or even bad at all but they certainly aren’t anything above mediocre. Looking back at previous Payday instalments, it’s clear that the Crimewave Edition could have used a little more high definition love, though it still supports full 1080p HD. Animations are solid, and in most cases they do the trick, with only a few things here and there causing you to stop and… stare. Special attention to detail was exceptionally absent in some areas of the game, and one of my own minor frustrations was the scale of most masks, borderlining on bobble-head material. Textures are acceptable and most of the games special effects are passable as well, but nothing really pops with Payday 2’s visuals.
Payday 2’s soundtrack is an exciting adrenaline-pumping mix of instrumentals, and the attention to detail paid is impressive at the least. The ability to create your own playlists and customize them further to fine-tune your listening experience is certainly a welcome addition to any wave-based shooter. Voice acting in most cases is excellent, and all of the recorded audio is top notch aside from the previously mentioned gunshots and other combat effects. It’s a shame that firing a fully automatic drum-fed machine gun feels and sounds like firing a pellet rifle, but I suppose the constantly upbeat and loud soundtrack is supposed to make up for that.
With over 50 updates worth of content and a score of miscellaneous improvements, the value is definitely present with Payday 2: Crimewave Edition. Lack of a concrete story and various unpolished dimensions of the game lend poorly to its overall conception, however underneath its faults and beyond the connection and host issues, Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is a solid experience with tons of hours to invest in the progression system. Overkill plans to support the game for continuation of the game’s development over the next sixteen months, however only for current-gen consoles.
***An Xbox One review code was provided by the publisher***